Posts Tagged ‘boston’

Photo: John Tlumacki/Globe Staff.
Artist and muralist Alex Cook painted two illusion paintings that he placed in Boston’s Franklin Park. The challenge is to keep them from being stolen.

It takes a brave artist to leave work in the woods. Where I live, Umbrella Arts members create art for an annual theme, trusting dog walkers, nature lovers, and connoisseurs to leave the paintings and sculptures in place over a period of months.

In Boston, trompe-l’œil art is appearing in woodland. Steve Annear has the story at the Boston Globe.

“When Jeffrey Jacobs went for a stroll along the trails in Boston’s Franklin Park last month, on a day when winter briefly gave way to spring, he expected to see the usual brown and beige leaves blanketing the ground, bare trees towering overhead, and a smattering of wildlife. But something else caught his attention that day: a clever piece of camouflaged artwork, just off the beaten path.

“The large painting perfectly matched its surroundings, but made it appear as if the trunks of the two trees it leaned against had been partially removed, replaced by a stack of gray stones and a twig wedged between the missing parts as if holding them up.

“ ‘I appreciated the illusion; I thought it was just wonderful,’ said Jacobs, who posted about his discovery on a Facebook page for Jamaica Plain residents. …

“The mysterious mural was one of two paintings recently hidden in a section of the sprawling park known as The Wilderness as part of a project by local artist Alex Cook. …

“ ‘There’s something so magical about coming across something wonderful in the woods,’ said Cook, a muralist by trade whose work is featured prominently on buildings around Boston and beyond. …

“The idea for the project, which he describes as a bit of a ‘treasure hunt,’ came at the beginning of the pandemic, when Cook was temporarily living in New Jersey with his wife’s family.

“After stumbling across a pair of boards from an old ping-pong table in the basement, he was inspired to bring them outside and use them as canvases. …

“ ‘All my projects had evaporated,’ he said. ‘I started making paintings on this thing.’

“Each Monday for several months, Cook would whip up a different mural on the boards, which he leaned against a pair of trees. …

“Some of the last murals he painted in the series were ‘illusion paintings’ that blended in with the natural surroundings and the trees that supported them. They had elements of trickery. …

“The memory of the playful paintings and the joy they brought people recently came back to him. He grabbed a wood panel, packed his art supplies into a bag, and headed out to the trail near his home in Jamaica Plain.

“The result was the first of two, 4-foot-by-4-foot paintings for people to discover on their way through Franklin Park. In a description of the process, which he posted online, Cook said the biggest challenge was reproducing and depicting the natural colors of the backdrop as accurately as possible, so everything lined up.

“ ‘And it’s crazily hard as the light is changing all through the day,’ he wrote. ‘But wicked fun when it works.’ …

“His work has ‘been received so warmly’ by the community, especially on Facebook, where people have marveled at its ingenuity.

“ ‘I appreciate this so much!’ one person wrote beneath a post of his artwork. ‘I walk here every day and finding surprise art is a delight and a treasure.’

“In the category of ‘this is why we can’t have nice things,’ [a painting with] missing trunks was stolen from its spot sometime in the past few days. But Cook is hoping the ‘art bandit’ will return it. …

“ ‘If you find yourself at a party and this painting is on the wall, do us all a favor and bring it right back to Franklin Park.’

“As for the remaining mural, once spring arrives and it no longer matches the landscape, Cook may swap it out for one that fits the season. Later, he’d like to feature his work in a more neutral environment, like an indoor art gallery. For now, he hopes his art continues to bring joy to unsuspecting viewers.

“ ‘I just want people to get a feeling of beauty, of wonder, of mystery,’ he said.”

Cook makes me think of Orson, the youngest of the Easter Egg Artists, who can’t help painting everything he sees. More at the Globe, here.

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Photo: Suzanne and John’s Mom.
In a rebellion against online behemoths, bookworms are ensuring that local shops survive and even grow.

Do you like to browse in bookshops? Pretty hard to do that online. That’s one reason book lovers have been supporting independent stores, not to mention the unique assistance and advice that shop staff can provide.

Dana Gerber investigated the topic for the Boston Globe last month.

“On the weekends, the line outside the new Beacon Hill Books sometimes snakes out the door. Brookline Booksmith has expanded twice since the pandemic. Later this year, Harvard Book Store will open at the Prudential Center. …

“Indeed, these are optimistic times for independent bookstores in Greater Boston, with four new shops sprouting up in and around Boston since 2020, and more on the way. And what variety bibliophiles have to choose from: There’s a feminist bookstore at Somerville’s Assembly Row, an outpost of a Provincetown favorite coming to the Seaport, and that five-story spectacle on Charles Street.

“ ‘There was a period where there were more stores closing in Boston than were opening,’ said Allison Hill, the CEO of the American Booksellers Association. ‘Now we’re seeing Boston return to being a bookstore town.’ …

“Interviews with more than a dozen local independent bookstore proprietors and experts describe an industry entering a new chapter.

“The pandemic, far from a death knell, galvanized customers to read more, shop locally, and, as the world reopened, indulge a bit more in offline experiences. Federal funds and other investments helped owners stay afloat, or even expand. And for developers and landlords looking to lure people back to brick-and-mortar shopping, bookstores old and new became model tenants. …

“So, how exactly did independent bookstores change their story? [Harvard Business School professor Ryan Raffaelli] says bookstores tend to knit themselves into a neighborhood, offer customers a unique selection of books and ‘sidelines’ (gifts or other products, which tend to have higher margins), and act as a ‘third space,’ away from home and work, where people can gather.

“These are attributes, said Raffaelli, that no algorithm can match. ‘As Boston continues to expand, and reconfigure itself, people are moving into new parts of the city and looking for those similar types of experiences,’ he said. …

“Just take the newest addition to Boston’s bookstore scene: Rozzie Bound Co-op in Roslindale, a neighborhood that has gone without a full-service bookstore for more than a decade. Roy Karp, along with four other worker-owners, opened the 200-square-foot nook in January with the help of more than 150 ‘consumer-owners’ — members of the community who purchased $100 shares in the business.

“ ‘They’re buying the shares because they want to see the bookstore in their community,’ said Karp. …

“In Fields Corner, too, a forthcoming bookstore was willed into reality. Words as Worlds — helmed by Boston poet laureate Porsha Olayiwola and Bing Broderick, the longtime head of the nonprofit Haley House — is slated to open this fall on the ground floor of a new Dorchester Avenue apartment building. The goal, the pair said, is for the store to act as a community hub in a neighborhood that tends to go dark early.

“And it’s clear that sort of space is in demand. The building’s developer collected community feedback and held a vote to help decide what to put on the ground floor. The bookstore prevailed. ‘People want it,’ said Olayiwola. …

“Other bookstores have found success by carving out niches. At Hummingbird Books in Chestnut Hill, which opened last spring, a giant, climbable tree welcomes children to the space. In Assembly Row, readers come from near and far to shop at All She Wrote, a bookstore that carries queer and feminist texts. …

“ ‘People showed up for us and were like, “We need this. We need this type of bookstore in Boston,” ‘ said owner Christina Pascucci Ciampa. ‘Our curation is what makes us who we are.’

“Even at established bookstores, owners are noticing renewed enthusiasm from shoppers that has allowed them to widen their footprints. People are returning in person to Harvard Book Store’s big-name author readings, which make up a sizable chunk of its business and are expected to draw crowds to the new Pru location. ‘They see us as bringing a lot of business to the building,’ said general manager Rachel Cass.

“Meanwhile, Brookline Booksmith has taken over two neighboring storefronts since the pandemic — first to expand their gift section and next to broaden their art and design stacks. The store now takes up nearly half the block. Sales are up ‘double-digit percentage points’ from pre-pandemic, said co-owner Lisa Gozashti.

“ ‘There’s something about it that’s changed,’ said Gozashti. ‘It’s not just browsing. I feel like people are making a day of it.’ “

More at the Globe, here.

If you lack a local bookshop. consider buying online at Bookshop.org, which gives a percentage of sales to indie shops. When my local shop can’t get a certain book, I have found that Bookshop.org has everything I ask for and delivers fast. So even if you are not getting the browsing experience, you are providing it for others in other towns — towns you might someday visit.

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Photo: Deniz Altindas via Unsplash.
New approaches in health care include meditation exercises and hospital care at home.

A couple of my doctors are convinced that people who are good at daily meditation are building new brain cells. I’m not convinced that I can do it, but I’m giving it the old college try. I go to a weekly class where we just sit and breathe. And I listen to an online meditation I like because it seems to give me permission to be “off duty” in so many ways. Trying to be good at meditation, for example, is out.

In another new approach to improving health care, hospitals are responding to both costs and the understanding that many acute-care patients fare better if they get the care they need at home, in their familiar surroundings.

Paula Span pursues the insights at the New York Times.

“Late last month, Raymond Johnson, 83, began feeling short of breath. ‘It was difficult just getting around,’ he recently recalled by phone from his apartment in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood in Boston. ‘I could barely walk up and down the stairs without tiring.’

“Like many older adults, Mr. Johnson contends with a variety of chronic health problems: arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma, heart failure and the heart arrhythmia known as atrial fibrillation.

“His doctor ordered a chest X-ray and, when it showed fluid accumulating in Mr. Johnson’s lungs, told him to head for the emergency room at Faulkner Hospital, which is part of the Mass General Brigham health system.

“Mr. Johnson spent four days as an inpatient being treated for heart failure and an asthma exacerbation: one day in a hospital room and three in his own apartment, receiving hospital-level care through an increasingly popular — but possibly endangered — alternative that Medicare calls Acute Hospital Care at Home.

“The eight-year-old Home Hospital program run by Brigham and Women’s Hospital [is] one of the country’s largest and provided care to 600 people last year; it will add more patients this year and is expanding to include several hospitals in and around Boston.

“ ‘Americans have been trained for 100 years to think that the hospital is the best place to be, the safest place,’ said the program’s medical director, Dr. David M. Levine.

‘But we have strong evidence that the outcomes are actually better at home.’

“A few such programs began 30 years ago, and the Veterans Health Administration adopted them more than a decade ago. But the hospital-at-home approach stalled, largely because Medicare would not reimburse hospitals for it. Then, in 2020, Covid-19 spurred significant changes.

“With hospitals suddenly overwhelmed, ‘they needed beds,’ said Ab Brody, a professor of geriatric nursing at New York University and an author of a recent editorial on hospital-at-home care in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. ‘And they needed a safe place for older adults, who were particularly at risk.’

“In November 2020, Medicare officials announced that, while the federally declared public health emergency continued, hospitals could apply for a waiver of certain reimbursement requirements — notably, for 24/7 on-site nursing care. Hospitals whose applications were approved would receive the same payment for hospital-at-home care as for in-hospital care.

“Since then, Medicare has granted waivers to 256 hospitals in 37 states. … But Medicare’s waivers are not permanent. The public health emergency remains in effect until January; although the Biden administration will likely extend it, state health officials are anticipating its end at some point next year, perhaps by spring.

“What will happen to hospital-at-home care then? Twenty-seven percent of programs that participated in a poll by the Hospital at Home Users Group said that they were unlikely to keep offering the option without a waiver, and 40 percent were unsure; 33 percent said that their programs were likely to continue. …

“Studies have repeatedly documented the risks of hospital stays to seniors, even when the conditions that made the stay necessary are adequately treated. Older adults are vulnerable to cognitive problems and infections; they lose physical strength from inadequate nutrition and days of inactivity, and they may not regain it. Many patients require another hospitalization within a month. One prominent cardiologist has called this debilitating pattern ‘post-hospital syndrome.’

“Had Mr. Johnson remained in the hospital, ‘he would have been lying in bed for four or five days,’ Dr. Levine said, adding: ‘He would have become very deconditioned. He could have caught C. diff or MRSA’ — two common hospital-acquired infections. ‘He could have caught Covid,’ Dr. Levine continued. ‘He could have fallen. Twenty percent of people over 65 become delirious during a hospital stay.’

“Patients must consent to hospital-at-home care. Almost one-third of Brigham and Women’s patients decline to participate because the hospital setting feels safer or is more convenient. But Mr. Johnson was delighted to leave, when an attending doctor told him that his conditions were treatable through hospital-at-home care. …

“At home, a doctor saw him three times, twice in person and once by video. A registered nurse or a specifically trained paramedic visited twice daily. They brought the drugs and the equipment Mr. Johnson needed: prednisone and a nebulizer for his asthma, and diuretics (including one administered intravenously) to reduce the excess fluid caused by heart failure. All the while, a small sensor attached to his chest transmitted his heart and respiratory rates, his temperature and his activity levels to the hospital.

“Had Mr. Johnson needed additional monitoring (to ensure that he was taking medications as scheduled, for instance), food deliveries or home health aides, the program could have provided those. If he needed scans or experienced an emergency, an ambulance could have returned him to the hospital.

“But he recovered well without any of those interventions. About a week after he was discharged, Mr. Johnson said he was ‘much better, much better,’ and that he would recommend hospital-at-home care to anyone. …

“ ‘Are there people who need to be in a hospital?’ Dr. Leff said. ‘Absolutely.’ Surgeries, complex testing and intensive care still require a building and its staff. Nonetheless, he added, hospital-at-home initiatives demonstrate that more care could be provided outside bricks-and-mortar facilities.

“ ‘Hospitals in the future will be big emergency rooms, operating rooms and intensive care units,’ [Dr. Bruce Leff, a geriatrician at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine] said. ‘Almost everything else will move to the community — or should.’ ”

More at the Times, here.

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Photo: Jessica Rinaldi/Globe.
Janelle Emmanuel, a Watertown resident, opted to rent out her driveway on Spacer, a parking app that’s gaining users around Boston.

When my friend Sara was a professor at Harvard and Stanford tried to lure her to the West Coast, the most irresistible thing that Harvard offered her was a parking space in Cambridge. There was a spot next to her office building that used to change hands every year among the faculty. It could be hers permanently. Sara stayed.

Although I myself always took public transportation when I worked in Boston and Cambridge, I learned that on a day when I needed a car, parking could be a real problem. There are public garages, of course, but the cost is a king’s ransom. No one who commuted to work in a city would want to pay that every day.

A new app makes it easier for someone with an unused parking space to help out someone who needs a space — and make some money at the same time. Today, using a driveway as an income generator is not just for people who live near the beach.

Collin Robisheaux writes at the Boston Globe, “Everything is pricey these days, and a little extra income can go a long way.

“Enter Spacer, an app that strives to be the ‘Airbnb of monthly parking‘ by connecting commuters in need of an empty space with locals who have an unused parking spot or driveway.

“It works like this: Someone with an empty driveway can download Spacer, input some personal information and details about the spot, and list it on the app or website for renters to reserve in month-long periods. Renters can then snag the parking spot for their personal use. …

Spacer Technologies was founded in Australia in 2015, before expanding to North America and acquiring Where I Park Inc. earlier this year. With more commuters returning to the office, parking has become a more pressing need — and Spacer has been a beneficiary, with Boston receiving more booking requests in October than any other city on the app. …

“With snow causing headaches for drivers with outdoor parking, some users may be thinking ahead, with booking requests for covered spots in the Boston area up 77 percent since July.

“Spacer said it has about 300,000 users globally, and hundreds of rentable spots in and around Boston. It makes money by taking 25 percent of transactions; the remaining 75 percent goes to the users who rent out their spaces.

“Daniel Vernick, 25, in Somerville [said,] ‘It was quite straightforward. It definitely took away some of the rent burden.’ …

“Vernick was able to net $220 per month. That kind of extra cash is what sets Spacer apart from other parking apps, according to Jeremy Zuker, chief executive of North America for Spacer Technologies.

“ ‘You can actually take something that you’re not using, like your driveway or your garage, and you can just turn that into a revenue stream,’ Zuker said. …

“Spacer is relatively new to the rental scene and has plenty of competition. Websites like Facebook and Craigslist have long served as platforms for advertising and renting out parking spaces.

“But Janelle Emmanuel, who joined both Spacer and Craigslist to rent out her driveway last year, says she feels more secure on Spacer than she did digging through Craigslist.

“ ‘I feel like with Craigslist, you don’t really always know what’s going on there,’ Emmanuel said. ‘But Spacer, I felt very safe.’

“Emmanuel rented out her driveway in Watertown, capable of fitting up to three cars, after a friend recommended the rental service as a side gig. Emmanuel said the app adds an element of separation between the renter and the host, which made her feel more secure.

“Residential neighborhoods like Allston, Brookline, Somerville, and parts of Cambridge are all popular locations on the app. Spots in the downtown and Seaport areas are fewer and pricier, but executives at Spacer hope the app can help with parking congestion in the city.

“ ‘This whole idea of efficiency is about both the infrastructure and the spaces,’ Zuker said. ‘But also just in getting people where they need to get without wasting time and fuel.’ “

All my friends in rural America must be laughing now. But you know, it’s a good thing that humans can figure out how to do what they have to do. I will say that better even than a rented parking space is an employer that subsidizes your use of public transportation. I sure missed that perk after I left MIT.

More at the Globe, here.

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Photo: 2Life Communities.

Back in June, I was listening to the radio in the car and heard a local interview with poet Billy Collins. Collins was in the area for a 2Life Communities fundraiser. In searching for more information on 2Life Communities, I found this 2021 story from GBH radio. Turns out, there actually exists, through a lottery system, an affordable and very diverse option for retirement in Greater Boston.

Marilyn Schairer reported, “Some senior adults living in and around Boston face a major life dilemma nowadays, especially when they retire and are on a fixed income: they have to choose between paying for heat, for food or for rent.

“That’s what 2Life Communities is working to change. The nonprofit is on a mission to help senior adults live in affordable housing in the Greater Boston area, with over 1,300 units and hundreds more in planning and construction stages, as demographic shifts leave more older Americans burdened by housing costs.

“Amy Schectman, president and CEO of 2Life Communities, said 2Life does more than just provide housing for middle- and low-income senior adults.

“ ‘We’re dedicated to the proposition that every older adult should have the opportunity to live a full life of connection and purpose in a dynamic, supportive environment,’ she said.

The organization’s mission brings together a community of people from all backgrounds and cultures. …

“A major demographic shift is underway in the United States as the baby-boomer generation ages. By 2030, one in five Americans will be 65 years old or over, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

“But Schectman said only a third of older adults who qualify for subsidized housing actually receive it nationwide. The remainder, as found by Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies, are ‘housing cost burdened,’ Schectman said, ‘meaning they’re spending an inadequate [amount on] money on food and medicine.’

“Currently, 2Life Communities has 1,340 affordable apartments on six different campuses in the Greater Boston area, including Newton and Framingham, and they’re looking to build another campus in Lynn. … Tenants at 2Life are selected through a lottery system, and the waitlist is long. …

“Tenant Darryl Smith won an apartment in the lottery three years ago, and he is thrilled.

“ ‘Oh man, I’m jumping for joy,’ he said. Smith, who is in his 70s. …

“2Life was formed in 1965, and back then it was called Jewish Community Housing for the Elderly. Schectman said the new name is meant to convey a sense of joyous aging, and it comes from a traditional Jewish or Hebrew toast: ‘L’Chaim,’ which means ‘to life.’

“One of the things tenants said they like about the living situation is the diversity. Resident speak a plethora of languages, and there are lots of people from the Boston area, of course, but many are immigrants, representing countries such as China, Ukraine and Belarus. …

“ ‘The end of the year is a big time of giving,’ she said. ‘And let me be clear, we can’t do what we do without philanthropy. We are 100% dependent because we believe you can’t chintz out on services and programs.’

“The median annual household income among residents is $12,078, according to Schectman. But even with federal subsidies and tax credits, she said partnerships with businesses like Dellbrook Construction are needed. Dellbrook’s CEO Michael Fish said he understands the need for organizations like 2Life Communities.

“ ‘The fact that they’re expanding and growing tremendously is not surprising whatsoever, and it’s incredibly necessary given the state we are in and the need for affordable housing for seniors,’ Fish said.

“And tenants like Darryl Smith feel a lot of gratitude for having a newfound home.

“ ‘I’ve got friends now that you can go right to,’ he said, noting the sense of community. ‘If you have any kind of problem, they’ll walk with you, and everybody’s smiling.’ ” More at GBH, here.

As my husband and I scout retirement communities, we realize that although we are fortunate enough to be able to pay the costs, we are going to lose out on contact with people of diverse backgrounds. Diversity of nationality, religion, and language is often tied these days to economic diversity. I will just have to keep volunteering with English as a Second Language classes. For me, making friends in those classes is truly enriching.

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Photo: Carlin Stiehl/Boston Globe.
The Boston Globe reports that at ChopValue, bags of used chopsticks get “sorted — and made into everything from coasters to furniture.” ChopValue is a Canadian company that franchises factories.

Do you find yourself noticing more often just how many items we use and throw out? Many of us now seek out products that are reusable. We do this on our own because anytime a law is made, companies find a way to get around it.

Our town bans plastic take-home bags and plastic bottled water. Guess what? CVS merely made a heavier plastic bag and called it reusable. Bottled-water companies added a hint of flavoring, a loophole that allows them to sell plastic bottles here. So let’s do what we can on our own for sustainability.

Diti Kohli writes at the Boston Globe, “Elaine Chow believes your chopsticks can be more than utensils. In fact, she knows they can.

“The Savin Hill resident is giving ‘a mountain of chopsticks’ a second life at a new micro-factory that was launched in Charlestown in early September. … There, Chow melds the breakable wooden staples of Asian food into something more: cellphone stands ($11), charcuterie boards ($67), and even tables ($960).

“It’s all possible through ChopValue, a Canadian company that franchises factories that create chopstick-based homewares to people like Chow. … She leads the charge locally by collecting used utensils from more than 100 Greater Boston restaurants and running the machines that turn them into their final form. Chow eventually packs and delivers online orders of cribbage boards and workstation desks — all once used to eat sushi or stir-fry — all over New England.

“The draw for her is sustainability, and the ChopValue micro-factory already reigns as one of the only entirely cyclical businesses in Eastern Massachusetts, Chow said. …

‘People are realizing more and more that we can’t just continue to consume and build up piles of trash. We can do better.’

“Here’s how it works. Four days a week, a ChopValue truck visits restaurants around the region, picking up bags of used chopsticks. That itself is a win-win: Businesses are left with less waste to dispose of, and Chow has raw materials to work with. In six months, she has amassed 2.5 million chopsticks, weighing 15,000 pounds, and that number keeps growing.

“Back at the factory, Chow and three employees sort the sticks by color and separate them into mesh baskets. Then the utensils are dipped into resin and baked for 12 hours at 200 degrees, a process that allows them to harden and the resin to crystalize. Staffers then press a 3,000-pound machine on the sticks to flatten them, and what comes out on the other side is a durable tile — one of three sizes — that can be connected, sanded, and cut into the finished product.

“The process has proved to be labor-intensive, and Chow is on the hunt for two more employees, which is tough in the tight labor market. … After years of working in human relations, she has fallen in love with the factory’s green mission — and the chance to build on a love for woodworking that she picked up during the pandemic. Chow built a picnic table and shed to cover her trash bins during early COVID, before quitting her job and buying the franchise in September 2021.

“ ‘I have forever and ever been obsessive [with] recycling,’ she said. But she found ChopValue while scrolling through social media one day. ‘I actually have the computer algorithm to thank. It finally did a good thing.’ ”

More at the Globe, here.

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Photo: Wen-hao Tien.
Taiwan-born artist Wen-hao Tien (left) started inviting people from around the world to teach her songs from their homelands as part her exhibit on immigration experiences at the Pao Arts Center in Boston, Massachusetts.

Singing a new language can be a good way to learn that language, but even if you are not trying to learn it, you can experience the emotion in it. Consider all the choruses around the world learning the Ukrainian national anthem these days. Who is not moved by the feeling of solidarity, whether you are a Ukrainian, a singer, or a listener?

It may take an artist, perhaps an immigrant artist like the one in this story, to explore the mysterious, emotional side of the phenomenon.

As Patrick Cox reports at Public Radio International’s the World, “Opera divas sometimes have to sing in languages that aren’t their native tongue. So do popular singers. The Beatles sang in German in their early years. Today, BTS sings in Japanese as well as their native Korean.

“Is it easier to sing than speak in a foreign tongue? And what is the difference between singing and speaking?

“Taiwan-born artist Wen-hao has put that to the test as part of her exhibit ‘Home on Our Backs,’ about the immigrant experience, at Boston’s Pao Arts Center.

“Tien, who has lived in the US for 33 years — much of that time in Boston — wanted to explore the sound of homelands as part of the exhibit.

So, she started inviting people from around the world into the exhibition space to teach her songs from their places of origin.

“Among the musical numbers she learned: a Dutch Indonesian song, a Sanskrit chant, a Shaker hymn, a French song, and the ‘Happy Birthday’ song sung in Brazilian Portuguese (which Tien now considers far superior to any other version).

“For Tien, learning to sing these songs — even when she didn’t fully understand the lyrics or the cultural context — was a highly emotional experience.

“That didn’t surprise William Beeman, emeritus professor of anthropology at the University of Minnesota. He said singing is ‘enhanced communication.’ …

“He knows this in a personal way [as] Beeman was an opera singer for a time. He said that learning to sing can be a bit like becoming a young child again — and it often sparks childhood memories. 

“ ‘The first thing that a teacher has to do in order to be able to get a person to sing is to kind of regress to the time when they were 4 or 5 years old,’ he said. That is usually a time when people can sing ‘freely and openly without any inhibition.’ 

“Which is also what Wen-hao Tien taps into with her ‘Teach Me a Song’ project. The songs tend be old ones — learned at a young age. …

“Tien’s exhibit also features her artwork, including an elaborate dress made of red plastic bags. The inspiration sprang from a family visit and a clutch of red plastic bags from a grocery store nearby to the exhibition space, where her parents always shopped. 

“ ‘My parents used to visit me from Taiwan,’ Tien said. ‘The first thing they would do when they arrived is to take the subway and go to Chinatown.’ They’d go to a grocery store in Boston’s Chinatown and buy a ton of food. Tien remembers the last time they did this was not long before her father died.

“ ‘I was in my apartment and it was getting dark,’ she recalled. ‘I looked out the window and saw two old people. Both were carrying as many bags as they could possibly hold.’  She knew it was her parents because of the bags. …

“ ‘That’s my last memory of my parents visiting me from far away,’ she said. ‘The image of them carrying many, many red plastic bags.’ … 

“Tien filed this in the back of her mind for years until these memories eventually resurfaced. She decided to make a dress out of about 35 of those bags, stitched and branded together in the style of a ball gown. …

“Tien has made a second dress out of red plastic bags. She hopes to give that one to Boston’s new mayor, Michelle Wu. Like Tien, Wu was born to Taiwanese parents.

“For more on Tien’s ‘Teach Me a Song’ project, check out ‘Subtitle,’ a podcast about languages and the people who speak them.” More at the World, here.

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Photo: Suzanne Kreiter/Globe.
Brothers Craig and Matt Taylor built a miniature Irish-style pub on wheels, dubbed the Wee Irish Pub. Want to rent it?

Journalist Steve Annear at the Boston Globe gets all the fun assignments. This report is about a perfect little Irish pub available for rent.

“At first, brothers Craig and Matt Taylor thought building a miniature Irish-style pub on wheels, a traveling taproom they could rent for private events and parties, would just be a hobby — a pandemic project that would take their minds off the world’s problems and let people enjoy the familiar comforts of crowding into a bar (albeit a very small one) at a time when it had become almost impossible to do so.

“But within days of launching the ‘Wee Irish Pub’ in September, it became clear that the fireside chat-turned-business venture was going to be much more than a side gig. …

“ ‘The floodgates have opened,’ said Craig, 58. ‘We are getting requests [to rent it], at least two an hour, for the last week.’

“The idea to construct a tiny Irish pub, complete with a small bar, stools, bench seating, and many of the other features found in traditional venues of its kind, had been in the back of Craig’s mind for years, since he read about an inflatable Irish bar that people could rent for a day in their own backyard. …

“ ‘I had been talking about it sort of as a pipe dream that would never happen,’ said Craig, who works in marketing.

“But as the Reading residents found themselves spending a lot of time around a fire pit in Matt’s backyard early in the pandemic — one of the few activities that was still safe and allowed — the possibility surged to the forefront, like the head on a perfectly poured pint of Guinness.

“ ‘We’d talk about it night after night,’ said Matt, 49. ‘Finally it was like, “Alright, let’s just do this.”

‘It’s kind of the perfect pandemic project because people were having backyard get-togethers and staying outside.’

“Last February, after batting around the notion and discussing logistics, they decided to try their luck. They bought a large trailer for the tiny pub to be built on, so it could be towed from place-to-place upon request.

“When it was finally delivered in April, they got to work on construction, a joint effort bolstered by Matt — ‘an IT guy by trade’ with a penchant for carpentry.

“ ‘I’m definitely more about the overall impression and the ambiance,’ said Craig, who took a genealogical tour of Ireland in 2018 with his family, visiting the homeland of his wife’s ancestors. ‘Matt is precise to the micro inch on making sure that every rafter is exact.’ …

“They sourced materials from online marketplaces like Craigslist, and repurposed and recycled old furniture and other items to try and give it an authentic look and feel. Their siblings and other close family members pitched in considerably.

“Within months, the cozy pub had it all: A Sláinte sign graced one wall, under a weathered horseshoe. A framed map of Ireland hung above an electric fireplace. The small bar was installed, with a refrigerator and taps for kegs. A plaque dedicating the project to Craig’s late father-in-law — who was of Irish descent — went up behind the benches, forever holding a seat for him.

“The design of the cream-colored cottage is similar to mobile pubs built by the Irish-based company The Shebeen, which brought one of its units to Boston in 2015.

“The Wee Irish Pub, which can fit up to 12 people inside, finally rolled to its first event — a company gathering in Melrose — in September. It hasn’t slowed down since. …

“The company, officially dubbed ‘Tiny Pubs,’ is based in Reading. But the brothers will deliver the bar to people’s doorsteps up to 30 miles away (or more, depending on the situation). Rentals cost between $800 and $1,200 per day, with Craig and Matt arriving to help with the set-up in the afternoon and then whisking it away the following day. …

Photo: Suzanne Kreiter/Globe.

“Most people are renting it to celebrate a milestone birthdays and retirement parties, the brothers said. But they recently received one call from a customer who has a terminally ill relative who had always wanted to visit Ireland, but no longer can.

“Instead, ‘they’re bringing the pub over to her in the driveway, to have a little taste of Ireland,’ Craig said. ‘It’s very sweet.’ More at the Globe, here.

I want to expand on the idea of bringing a bit of Ireland to a patient who can no longer travel. I remember when Animals as Intermediaries (now the Nature Connection) was founded in Massachusetts in 1983. It all started with asking an elderly, disabled woman what would cheer her up and receiving the answer, “Bring me the ocean.” The nonprofit’s founder was able to bring her a collection of items that really made her feel like she was near the ocean. Read about that early, perhaps better, version of virtual reality here.

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Urban Nutcracker

Photo: Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff.
Mother and daughter Afrika Lambe (a pianist), and Erika Lambe (a dancer) talk about their deep roots in Boston arts and their love for the “Urban Nutcracker.

Boston has an unusual dance event at the holidays. It’s called the “Urban Nutcracker.” Some years ago, Kristina and I went to see to a production and really enjoyed it. My understanding is that it’s a little different every year, so I know I need to get back there. Today’s story highlights a mother and daughter who have had a role in preparing young dancers of color to take part both here and in the wider arts world.

The daughter danced with the acclaimed Boston Ballet for 11 years, but says that despite some principal solos there, she finds her current work with young dancers more meaningful.

Karen Campbell reports at the Boston Globe, “Twenty years ago, dancer Erika Lambe became Boston Ballet’s first Black Sugar Plum Fairy in ‘The Nutcracker.’ During much of her time with the company, she was the only Black ballerina.

“Now Lambe is involved with a version of the classic ballet dedicated to putting artists of color front and center. This season, City Ballet of Boston’s production of ‘Anthony Williams’ Urban Nutcracker’ also celebrates a landmark 20th anniversary. Williams’s multicultural twist on the ballet classic, set in present-day downtown Boston, blends the traditional Tchaikovsky score with Duke Ellington’s jazzy version and features dance styles ranging from ballet and flamenco to hip-hop.

“ ‘There’s no other “Nutcracker” like this,’ Lambe says. ‘Its whole intent is to speak to a more diverse audience, unlike the more traditional productions. … Twenty years ago, people in this community wouldn’t even consider going to a ballet, but this has brought them into the theaters and gives kids exposure to dance, ballet in particular. It’s such a holiday tradition.’

“This year, Lambe reprises her role as the Mother in ‘Urban Nutcracker,’ and a role behind the scenes, too, as ballet mistress, running the children’s rehearsals, working with some of the adults in the production, teaching upper-level classes in City Ballet of Boston’s school, and running its introductory Relevé program. She’s also helping in the wardrobe department, refurbishing costumes and making new tiaras.

“Now in her 50s, Lambe, who grew up in Brookline, has been enmeshed in the dance world since she began classes at the age of 4. She says she was never one of those kids who dreamed of being a ballerina, but after seeing a Boston Ballet ‘Nutcracker’ production when she was 6, she was hooked, beginning training with the company as one of only a handful of students of color. ‘I hated ballet, but I wanted to be in “The Nutcracker.” ‘ …

“When she was 10, she says, the ballet master pushed for her to be given the role of Clara. Boston Ballet founder E. Virginia Williams demurred, saying the ballet was a period piece, but she cast Lambe in other challenging roles to showcase her talent.

“At the age of 16, Lambe began her professional career at Dance Theater of Harlem under the legendary Arthur Mitchell, which led to three years of ‘great opportunities.’ Then Edward Villella invited her into the fledgling Miami City Ballet. In 1993, she joined Boston Ballet, dancing with the company until 2004. ‘I did a lot. Jumping was my forte, and I was a quick study. I remember I got thrown into a solo [last minute] in “Raymonda” — and I got a good review!’ she recalls with a delighted laugh.

“Lambe comes by her drive and enthusiasm honestly. Her mother is Afrika Hayes Lambe, a beloved Boston area dance accompanist with an impressive background as a vocal soloist as well. At the age of 88, Afrika is still accompanying ballet classes, known for her expansive memory in repertoire ranging from ballet classics to Broadway tunes.

Erika’s grandfather was the internationally acclaimed tenor Roland Hayes, whose father had been enslaved and was later emancipated. Roland went on to fill concert halls and shatter racial barriers around the world.

” ‘A lot of my grandfather’s history informs me,’ Lambe says, citing Hayes’s tireless fight against racism and inequity to blaze a trail for generations of Black vocalists and become one of the highest-paid recitalists in the world by the 1920s. …

” ‘I had hoped to follow in my grandfather’s footsteps,’ says Erika Lambe. ‘I wanted to be a principal or soloist at Boston Ballet, but it just didn’t happen. I got some principal roles so I did get the opportunities, just not the title. I had a great career dancing … but I feel like maybe what I’m doing now is more meaningful.’

“Williams, a progressive dance educator and former principal dancer with Boston Ballet … says at his own school, Lambe has become an inspiring role model. ‘Students and parents can identify with her,’ Williams says. ‘She really cares about them, and she’s passionate, reliable, professional, and very proactive about getting things done.’

“Lambe who has taught widely in Greater Boston, also currently teaches at Reading’s Northeast School of Ballet and created a program to bring students from the school’s youth company into the upcoming ‘Urban Nutcracker’ production. ‘It’s a great exchange,’ says Williams, ‘a nice bridge between the white suburbs and inner-city kids. … People that come to the show are struck by the diversity onstage. … Our first show happened right after 9/11, now this one’s right after COVID. I hope it offers the community a kind of a salve to help us heal wounds.’ “

More at the Globe, here.

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Photo: Suzanne Kreiter/Globe staff.
Restaurant owner Donnell Singleton delivered fresh vegetables and a chicken and rice dinner to JoAnn Witt in Dorchester in 2020 during the height of the pandemic.

As I try to catch up on articles I saved from before the lockdown and in its early days, I thought you’d be interested to know that the Boston restaurant in this inspiring June 2020 piece was still operating on its community-oriented principles.

Suzanne Kreiter at the Boston Globe wrote the story and took the pictures.

“When the pandemic shut down Boston’s schools in March [2020], Food for the Soul restaurant owner Donnell Singleton made a decision. Working with activist Monica Cannon-Grant of Violence in Boston, Singleton closed his Grove Hall restaurant to customers and turned it into a provider of free meals for the community.

“He thought they would feed a couple hundred people on the first day. Some 850 showed up. The next day, 1,050. On the third day, 1,200 people came for chicken, collard greens, sandwiches, rice, and other fixings.

“Unable to continue safely serving so many people out of the storefront restaurant he opened four years ago on Warren Street, Singleton and Cannon-Grant transitioned the effort to a free community food delivery service. …

“To support the effort, Singleton at first relied on donations. Then Cannon-Grant swung into action. ‘Monica is the queen of grass-roots,’ Singleton said.

“He got a Resiliency Fund grant from the city, as well as money from the Boston Foundation, Nike, and other funders. Singleton couldn’t pay his staff, but they stayed on as volunteers. Through her own fund-raising prowess, Cannon-Grant provided stipends to the restaurant’s staff so they could keep food on their own families’ tables.

Other volunteers from the community, having no job to go to during the pandemic, crammed into his small restaurant to cook, package food, and drive meals to families, many of whom were in need even before COVID-19. …

“Every day, potential customers peer in the windows or ask through the door for Singleton’s soul food, a mouth-watering assortment of chicken (fried, baked, barbecued, smothered, and jerk), fried haddock, beef ribs, brisket, rice and beans, and more. But they have to wait.

“Singleton said he’s not worried about lost business. He said he felt it would be ‘almost disgraceful’ not to have been there for his community.

‘“Sometimes you have to ask yourself what’s important,’ he said.

“Singleton, a 47-year-old father of three, was born and raised in Roxbury. He attended Latin Academy and was the first member of his family to graduate from high school and college, Clark Atlanta University. He has worked as a teacher, often focusing on at-risk youths, and he owns a children’s book publishing company, Origin Nile Publishing.” More at the Boston Globe, here.

From the restaurant’s website: “Food For The Soul is the only location in Boston where you can walk in and find a Muslim, a Jew, a Christian, a cop, a fireman, and a school teacher. All of these individuals would be of different ages, ethnicities, sexual orientations, socio-economical levels, and educational levels. It is here at Food For The Soul [that] every single one of those people are the same, ‘human beings deserving of and receiving great service, great products, and amazing Food For The Soul.”

Follow the restaurant’s unusual array of community activities on Facebook, here.

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Photo: David L. Ryan/Globe Staff.
A customer got groceries at the Fresh Truck stop in the Mission Hill neighborhood of Boston.

When I was a kid, my mother sometimes bought vegetables from Mr. Mackey. Mr. Mackey was a “huckster” who came around in an old school bus, repainted blue and outfitted like a produce market. I think my mother patronized this project because it charmed her. Earle and Caroline’s mother, Grace, was more practical. She may have tested Mr. Mackey’s wares once or twice, but she objected that he was overpriced. As indeed he was.

But if nothing else, there’s something to be said for the memories generated by such “old tyme” services. My husband likes to talk about a knife grinder who frequented his childhood neighborhood. And ever since the pandemic inspired me to start getting milk delivered in glass bottles, I feel like I’m not only reducing plastic waste but preserving a happy tradition.

As to repurposed school buses carrying produce, Diana Bravo reports at the Boston Globe about a few that are now serving “food deserts” in the Boston area.

Fresh Truck “co-founder Josh Trautwein was working as a health educator at MGH Charlestown Healthcare Center,” she writes, “when he heard from local families that it was difficult to shop for healthy food because the only local grocery store was shut down for a yearlong renovation. That inspired Trautwein to start About Fresh, which operates a program called Fresh Truck to bring affordable, healthy food into Boston communities that need it most.

“The nonprofit purchases food wholesale, and during the growing season Fresh Truck buys from local growers and resells the food at around the same price to help families keep nutritious food on the table at affordable prices.

“The nonprofit operates three retrofitted school buses that have been converted to mobile grocery stores. The trucks accept a variety of payments. Beyond cash and credit, they also accept Electronic Benefit Transfer, Healthy Incentives Program, and Fresh Connect. … Before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, mobile markets would allow customers to board and shop on the three buses at 18 locations. But at the height of the pandemic, that was not possible. …

“After a brief shutdown, the program reopened with an open-air plan. Now, at most locations, customers order outside the bus while volunteers shop and package their orders.

“Customers order online in advance and pick up their produce at four locations. [Victoria Strickland, director of communications and partnerships for About Fresh,] says this has been beneficial to the nonprofit’s senior and disabled customers. As a result, Fresh Trucks hopes to continue and expand online ordering beyond the end of the pandemic.”

Sure beats food shopping for your family at “convenience” stores, where in addition to pretzels, Coke, and canned soup, a couple hard, bland apples are likely to be unconscionably marked up.

More at the Boston Globe, here. By the way, I have posted a lot of stories on how other people are addressing the challenge of food deserts. Just search on the phrase in the search box above if you’re interested.

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Photo: Jonathan Wiggs/ Globe Staff
Boston’s City Fresh Foods management (above, CEO Sheldon Lloyd
) is selling a stake in the business to its workers via an employee stock-purchase program.

One of the main reasons there is such inequality between the wealth of executives and labor is that when a company does well, very little of the money comes to workers. It’s almost a sharecropper scenario. That’s why sometimes workers pool their savings to buy a company and make it a cooperative. And it’s why owners who worry about inequality offer employees ownership shares.

Jon Chesto writes at the Boston Globe, “City Fresh Foods in Roxbury is in high demand, as the food provider has raced to distribute locally produced meals to homes in and around Boston during the pandemic on behalf of various nonprofit agencies.

“Now, City Fresh co-owners Sheldon and Glynn Lloyd say they are offering a way for employees to share in this success — by bringing them on board as equity partners.

“About 90 of City Fresh’s 150 workers were eligible to participate in a new ’employee stock purchase program’ that closed to applicants last week. The company said 35 employees opted to buy shares in the privately held company through paycheck deductions, collectively representing about 3,500 shares, or a 35 percent ownership stake.

“Bringing employees into the fold as owners has been a longtime goal for Sheldon Lloyd, the chief executive, and his brother Glynn, who now leads the Foundation for Business Equity, launched by Eastern Bank.

“City Fresh workers, many of them immigrants, will now be able to directly benefit as the value of the company increases, through the appreciation of stock and the granting of dividends during profitable years like the last one. The hope is that the dividends employee-owners receive will at least compensate for the cost of the new paycheck deductions. …

‘We’ll still make money, but it’s going to be shared differently,’ he said. ‘It’s not a huge capitalistic moneymaking venture, ultimately, if it continues down this path. But it’s the right thing. It keeps me going.’ …

“The transfer of ownership in the nearly 30-year-old company helps provide for an exitfor two of its investors, Boston Impact Initiative and Cienega Capital. Those investors had together held a 40 percent stake in City Fresh since 2015, when minority investor Unidine Corp. was bought out. …

“Employee ownership [helps] ensure a shared interest in a company’s financial fortunes, said Eastern Bank’s chief executive, Bob Rivers, whose firm helped finance the stock sale at City Fresh. …

“At City Fresh, Sheldon Lloyd envisions a company that outlasts him and his brother. The pandemic, he said, is exacerbating the gap between haves and have-nots, favoring white-collar employees who can work from home and who have money in the stock market.

“ ‘There’s an inequity within the inner city, in the Black and brown communities,’ he said. “In a small way, this helps to bridge that gap.’ ” More at the Boston Globe, here.

Author John Case wrote the book on those types of arrangements. At the New Republic in 2019 he explained, “Close to 7,000 U.S. businesses are partly or wholly owned by a trust known as an employee stock ownership plan, or ESOP. The list of companies with full or majority employee ownership includes giant firms such as the Publix supermarket chain in the Southeast, with more than 200,000 employees; large and middle-market enterprises such as W.L. Gore & Associates, maker of Gore-Tex fabric, with nearly 10,000; and smaller companies such as King Arthur Flour (300) and New Belgium Brewing (800).

“These companies are typically more productive than their conventionally owned peers. They grow faster, pay higher wages, and are less apt to lay people off in a downturn. Successful ones — as most are — enable employees to build up serious wealth over time. A recent Rutgers study found that the average worker in a company with an employee stock ownership plan has already accumulated $134,000 in wealth just from his or her stake in the business. Some have a million or more.
” More here.

You might also like the Nonprofit Quarterly’s article by Davis Taylor and Rob Brown about the Coop economy in Maine, here.

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Photo: ICA
The Institute of Contemporary Art’s Watershed building is in East Boston, one of the communities hit hardest by Covid-19. In April, the ICA decided the most important thing it could do would be to provide food to neighbors in need. (Art projects for families get included in the bundles.)

Some artists seem more alert to human needs than the rest of us. That’s something my mother noted after my father had a debilitating stroke in his 40s. The painter friend and the poet friend seemed to more moved by what happened, more empathetic, than many others.

Certainly, in the current pandemic, we’ve seen people in the arts stepping up to offer all kinds of help. Here’s an example.

Grace Griffin reported for the Boston Globe in April, “With its galleries closed to the public, the Institute of Contemporary Art is using its Watershed outpost to feed families in need. … The nonprofit enlisted its catering company, The Catered Affair, to help with a donation drive.

“The ICA also recruited new donors to fund the project. The monthlong drive — launched in partnership with East Boston Neighborhood Health Center, East Boston Social Centers, Maverick Landing Community Services, Eastie Farm, Orient Heights Housing Development, and Crossroads Family Center — distributes family-size boxes filled with fresh produce and dairy products. …

“ ‘We know this is just a drop in the bucket of need,’ said ICA director Jill Medvedow. ‘We are pleased to help in this small way.’ ” More.

Then in late May, Andrea Shea followed up with a story at WBUR radio.

“Now the museum, its catering company and partnering community organizations in East Boston are extending their food distribution program through Sept. 3.

“ ‘What we learned in April … how hard hit East Boston residents are by COVID,’ ICA director Jill Medvedow said Friday.

The struggle to feed families is ongoing, and Medvedow said it highlights life-threatening disparities the largely immigrant East Boston community faces.

“ ‘Not having the nutrition that contributes to one’s health, to one’s ability to take care of your family, to that sense of dignity that everyone deserves,’ Medvedow said. …

” ‘I see this heroism around me,’ Medvedow said, ‘and I feel very lucky to help facilitate this. That’s my role.’

“About four years ago, when Medvedow and her staff embarked on transforming the 15,000 square-foot condemned building into satellite space for the ICA, they were dedicated to building relationships with the people who live there. ‘I never thought then that this would be the way in which we would demonstrate that the arts and the ICA would be a resource in this Boston community,’ she said, ‘But it is.’

“The food boxes also carry on the ICA’s mission to share art. Each one includes a creative project for families isolated at home. Medvedow said the museum is currently in talks with artists about commissioning new activities designed for both solace and stimulation. …

“Initially the effort’s funding was seeded with unsolicited anonymous donations. Now the ICA is funding the food distribution project and welcomes any additional support. …

“By the end of summer the ICA’s Watershed estimates it will provide more than 2,000 boxes of eggs, butter, fresh vegetables and fruit to East Boston families.” More.

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Photos: Shelter in Place Gallery
Shelter In Place is a miniature, coronavirus-inspired gallery. It was launched by artist Eben Haines, who built the maquette and invited artists to submit works to scale.

If I didn’t believe that for most of us the lockdown would last a lot longer than the current “opening up” stuff, I’d write a post about happy I am to read books to grandchildren again and how sorry I am to see artists abandon their wildly inventive pandemic pursuits.

But I’m pretty sure most of us will still be self-distancing for many moons and enjoying the output from creative people that might never have happened but for coronavirus. I love following @covidartmuseum on Instagram, for example. Some of the submissions are a little too weird for me, but most of them make me laugh out loud. Another great source is the arts website Hyperallergic, where I recently learned about a miniature gallery called Shelter in Place.

Valentina Di Liscia wrote, “In the past month, a Boston gallery has managed to mount 15 exhibitions of brand-new works, with a rigorous program still to come. With the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, arts institutions around the globe shuttered one after the other; meanwhile, Shelter in Place Gallery [@shelterinplacegallery on Instagram] was not only founded during the crisis but continues to thrive.

“Of course, there’s a catch. Shelter In Place is a miniature gallery, measuring 20 by 30 inches and exhibiting scaled-down works in a model structure created using foam core, mat board, balsa wood, and plexiglass. Artists can submit works at a 1:12 or one inch to the foot scale, allowing them to create and show even ambitious, seemingly large-scale pieces — a romantic, suspended latex installation by Mary Pedicini; wall-to-wall canvases by B. Chehayeb — while traditional exhibition spaces remain closed. With high ceilings and skylights that flood the space with sunshine, the condensed gallery is impressively lifelike, giving artists room to get particularly creative. …

“The brilliant concept was devised by Eben Haines, a painter and graphic designer for exhibitions at the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA), Boston.

‘With the ongoing shutdowns and lockdowns across the globe, artists are having to stay home … So I’ve built SIP gallery as a new platform for Boston Artists (and eventually from all over) to allow for large scale artworks to be made at a desk or dining room table.’ …

“The idea first came to him back in 2018, long before the pandemic, when Haines was asked to participate in a group show at the Porch Gallery in Minneapolis titled Art Fair. The concept was simple: each artist received a 10-by-10-inch, white-painted MDF box that would serve as an ersatz fair booth where they could show scaled work. …

“Months later, as a rainy day project, he decided to create his own 1:12 scale model to house maquettes for large-scale works that he could not produce in his studio due to space or financial constraints. ‘But then the weather got better, and the more or less abandoned model stayed tucked away in my studio,’ he said.

“Enter the current crisis. Haines was one of more than 300 workers furloughed from the MFA Boston, which closed its doors in March … Haines dusted off the gallery model from years back and began making miniature paintings, initially as a strategy to continue working in his reduced studio space, which had shrunk from 400 square feet to a mere 10. But it dawned on him that other artists might be in a similar predicament, confined to less-than-ideal work conditions and aching to share their creations in a meaningful way. …

“All of the works on view are original, and it prioritizes new pieces as opposed to small copies of existing ones. Digital copies are all but prohibited. … So far, all works have arrived ready to be hung, which has made installations easier. …

“Haines emphasizes the project is not commercial; instead, any sales inquiries received are rerouted to the artists themselves, or to their galleries. Nicole Duennebier’s exhibition, for instance, nearly sold out before they could deliver the mini-paintings back to her gallery, 13FOREST. …

“Said Haines. ‘One of my ambitions for this project, besides urging people to step outside of their crisis mode for a little bit, is for artists to be able to use their submission proposals and photographs of their installed work to send to galleries, residencies, or grant programs, and have some momentum when the country opens back up. …

” ‘We’re honestly so busy with the local response we’ve had that it seems daunting to open it up, but once going to the post office gets a little safer and easier, I’d love to be able to show work from outside Boston,’ said Haines.”

Read the whole article at Hyperallergic, here. The pictures are amazing.

Wilhelm Neusser, “Untitled Bog Painting” (2020), oil on linen, a miniature.


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Photo: Craig F. Walker/Boston Globe
Research scientist Hen-Wei Huang talked about Spot the robot during a demonstration at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

When Boston Dynamics first launched its robot dog, people regarded it more as a toy with fancy tricks than as a serious partner in the working world.

Then came coronavirus.

As Hiawatha Bray reports at the Boston Globe, the robot’s remarkable agility is one reason it has become useful for screening potential Covid-19 victims safely.

Bray writes, “At Brigham and Women’s Hospital, the first encounter a potentially infected person might have is not with a doctor or nurse swathed in protective gear, but with a talking, animal-like robot that looks like it might have wandered off the set of ‘Star Wars.’

“Spot, the agile walking robot from Waltham-based Boston Dynamics, gained Internet notoriety for showing off its dance moves on YouTube. But now it’s going to work in the real world, striding into the danger zone, armed only with an iPad. The robot is posted just outside the hospital, not so much as a sentinel, but as an intake worker that will help doctors safely interview people who fear they may have been infected with the coronavirus. …

“The yellow-and-black Spot robot, which resembles a large dog, is positioned inside a big white tent set up in front of the hospital’s main entrance as a triage area for potential COVID-19 cases. It is fitted with an iPad that displays a physician located safely inside the hospital who can use the device’s camera to see the patient’s physical condition. The doctor can talk to the patient through the built-in microphone and a mounted speaker, asking standard diagnostic questions.

“The physician is also able to remotely control Spot, directing the machine to move around for a better perspective of the patient. …

‘Most people have been very excited to be interacting with this robot and mostly see it as something that is cool and fun,’ [said emergency room doctor Farah Dadabhoy].

“Michael Perry, Boston Dynamics’ vice president of business development, said that as early as February the company began receiving inquiries from hospitals worldwide. Was it possible, they asked, to use a Spot robot to conduct triage interviews? …

“Many had set up their COVID triage areas outdoors, on lawns or in parking lots. On such uneven surfaces, ‘traditional robotics doesn’t make sense,’ he said. ‘We need something that can handle this difficult terrain.’ …

“Doctors at the Brigham had also been looking into automated triage. In cooperation with engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, they worked on remote diagnostic sensors, but they needed a robot to carry them. So in March they reached out to Boston Dynamics.

“The result was a specially modified Spot, featuring the iPad and a little carrying pouch mounted near the robot’s ‘tail.’

“There’s nothing flashy about the pouch, but it’s quite practical. It allows Spot to deliver small items such as bottled water to infected patients, without the need to send in a nurse. Personnel can’t approach a COVID-infected patient, even for something as simple as giving him a bottle of water, without putting on safety gear. … With the medical version of Spot, health care workers can just put the bottle in the pouch and have it marched over to the patient. And the moisture-resistant robot is designed to be sanitized easily.

“The current version of Spot is only good for conducting interviews. But the Brigham will soon deploy an upgraded model with cameras that can measure a patient’s respiration rate and body temperature, with no need to make physical contact. …

The company said it is giving its medical hardware and software designs at no charge to any robotics company that cares to use them. Perry said Boston Dynamics has already had talks with a Canadian maker of wheeled robots.

Read more at the Globe, here.

Spot the Robot Dog in an earlier career as a YouTube dancing sensation.

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